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Patrick Smith
IU Office of Mentoring Services and Leadership Development

George Vlahakis
University Communications

Last modified: Monday, November 2, 2009

BET's Johnson among those speaking at IU leadership conference for people of color

Nov. 2, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The 2009 Men of Color Leadership Conference at Indiana University Bloomington will have a different look and feel to it this year. In honor of our nation's first African-American president, the committees for IU's leadership conferences for men and women of color decided to combine forces to hold a combined event.

Jeff Johnson

John Ricard

Jeffrey I. Johnson

Print-Quality Photo

Jeffrey Johnson, a Black Entertainment Television journalist, CNN correspondent and former national youth director for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), will be among the speakers at the conference on Nov. 13-14, being held at the Kelley School of Business' Godfrey Graduate and Executive Education Center, 1275 E. 10th St.

The student-founded conference, with the theme, "Bridging the Gap: Building Upon the 2008 Election," is committed to uniting African American, Latino, Asian and Native American people in Indiana and elsewhere by providing a platform and a venue for effective dialogue and leadership development.

Also speaking will be Monroe Circuit Judge Valeri Haughton, IU professor Khalil Muhammad and authors Robert Jackson and Tajuana Butler. Andrew Wallace, a partner and a certified public accountant at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, will open the Friday general session with a presentation on leadership for success in a global economy.

The event is open to high school and college students and community professionals. This is the first year that the two conferences have been combined.

In addition to students from IU campuses, participants will represent Eastern Illinois University, Ivy Tech Community College, Manchester College (Indiana ), Duquesne University, Southeast Missouri State and the University of Alabama-Birmingham, as well as two historically black colleges, Clark-Atlanta University and Huston-Tillotson University of Austin, Texas. The Monroe County Community School Corp. will send students to participate as well.

"The committee thought that considering how the 2008 election has had such a profound effect in bringing people together, we thought it prudent to develop a theme that reflects this," said conference chair Patrick D. Smith, executive director of IU's Office of Mentoring Services and Leadership Development. "This concept also applies to the fact that the committees have combined to bring two separate conferences together to form one monumental event. The conference itself is history in the making."

The conference will emphasize academic excellence, career development, diversity awareness and empowerment, as well as political awareness. Workshops will be available that will promote dialogue that reflect these categories. In addition, participants will leave the event armed with information that will empower them to impact change in their communities, schools, or agencies.

Here's more about the conference speakers:

Jeffrey I. Johnson

From the hip-hop community to mainstream media, Johnson serves as a trusted voice for information and opinions to a new generation. A social activist, political strategist, inspirational speaker, executive producer and an architect for social change, Johnson is one of today's most gifted leaders in both the political and entertainment arenas.

As a journalist for BET, he traveled on assignment to the Darfur region of Sudan 2007 and has interviewed Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir and U.S. President Obama and Minister Louis Farrakhan. He also serves as a contributor and correspondent for XM radio, "The Dr. Phil Show" and CNN.

Johnson's commitment to fostering broad-based communication about issues related to race, politics, popular culture and socio-economics have made him an influential voice for change. In 2007, he testified before the Committee on Homeland Security regarding recovery efforts in wake of the devastation caused to the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina.

Tajuana TJ Butler

At the age of 26, Butler in 1997 founded Lavelle Publishing, which published her first two books, The Desires of A Woman: Poems Celebrating Womanhood and Sorority Sisters. Villard Books, a division of Random House, released Sorority Sisters in 2000. She since has authored the No. 1 Essence magazine bestseller Hand-me-down Heartache, The Night Before Thirty and Just My Luck (all released by a division of Random House).

Butler has toured colleges and universities to conduct workshops and has been a presenter at the African American National Sorority Convention, the National Black Arts Festival and the Black MBA Conference.

A resident of Indianapolis, she has re-established Lavelle Publishing and Nova Concepts Speakers. She is working on her next novel, Keeping up with the Jones'.

Robert Jackson

Jackson is author of No More Excuses: Black Men Stand Up! and is a motivational speaker and a representative for Teva Pharmaceuticals. After earning a degree from and lettering in football and track in 1990-93 at Western Kentucky University, Jackson played briefly for the Minnesota Vikings.

He oversees the Kappa League mentoring programs at five Indianapolis high schools and is an active member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. and 100 Black Men of Indianapolis, where he serves on the Health and Wellness and Beautillion committees.

Besides mentoring, Jackson shares his message with both youths and adults all over the country. Earlier this year he was awarded the key to the city of Miami by Mayor Manuel L. Diaz after his keynote address at the 5000 Role Models Scholarship Program, where 45 men of color were awarded scholarships to any college in Florida and a laptop computer.

Khalil Muhammad

Khalil Muhammad

Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Muhammad is an assistant professor of American history and an adjunct assistant professor in African American and African Diaspora Studies and in American Studies at IU. Following the completion of his Ph.D. from Rutgers University in the fall of 2003, he spent two years as a Mellon Fellow of Race, Crime, and Justice at the Vera Institute of Justice in New York City.

He is the author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America, which will be published by Harvard University Press in January. Muhammad's scholarship has been featured in the Washington Post and on National Public Radio. He is currently researching the recent history of black conservatism and working on an edited volume on the history of police brutality.

Valeri Haughton

Haughton is a judge for the Monroe Circuit Court in Bloomington, Ind., who has spent her entire adult life in public service. The legal profession was her second career after a nearly 20-year career as a mental health counselor.

At the age of 40 and as a divorced mother of three, she enrolled in law school. She worked in the Capital Division of the State Public Defender's office while still in law school as a law clerk and investigator. She then worked as a deputy prosecuting attorney for 12 years. Since January 2005, she has worked as a consultant at IU Bloomington, doing research on the history of blacks at the university.

Remarried now with five children and 16 grandchildren, she is active in the Bloomington community as a member of the Human Rights Commission, the Community Kitchen Board and the Youth Services Board. She also is a member of the Indiana Bar Association and NAACP.

More about the conference:

The conference will begin on Nov. 13 with high school sessions at 9 a.m. Activities for college students begin with a reception at 7 p.m that evening. The conference will continue the next morning at 8 a.m. and through lunch.

The deadline for registration is Nov. 6. The fee to attend the conference is $55 for university and community professionals, $30 for college students and $20 for high school students. Interested students should contact the Office of Mentoring Services and Leadership Development at 812-855-8850. The fee includes all conference materials, the opening reception, breakfast and lunch and materials. There will be no onsite registration.

To register for the conference and obtain additional information, go to

The Office of Mentoring Services and Leadership Development is sponsoring the conference. Other conference supporters and co-sponsors include the Kelley Office of Diversity Initiatives (KODI), Kelley School of Business, President's Office, Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs, School of Education, Residential Programs and Services; 21st Century Scholars Program, Hudson and Holland Scholars Program, Groups Student Support Services, School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, Office of Multicultural Initiatives, Office of Women Affairs, Ivy Tech, the City of Bloomington, Monroe County Community School Corp., Bloomington Convention and Visitors Bureau and corporate sponsor PricewaterhouseCoopers.